'Career Canines': Rescue dogs get a second act performing onstage

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Over the past 36 years, J.R. Johns of Reno, Nevada, has made a career working alongside dogs. With a passion for animals and the patience to train them, he's turned rescue dogs from the local shelter into astounding performers.

"I've adopted and rescued over 78 dogs. Every one of them was a gem," Johns told ABC News. "I look back at those guys, and each one brings their own individuality to the table. They're all characters."

Johns started his career in show business as a stagehand in a theater owned by Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. He was exposed to elephants, tigers and lions but decided to pursue working with canines.

"Exotic animals, they are so cool to work around, but the difference is when they're having a bad day, they eat your head off. Dogs just lick your face. The rewards in working with dogs are huge," Johns said.

PHOTO: Pickles, pictured sitting upright, taking a break on the couch with his co-stars.
Jason Kurtis/ABC News
Pickles, pictured sitting upright, taking a break on the couch with his co-stars.

Over the years, Johns has outfitted his home to accommodate his canine co-stars. Every area has been dog-proofed and could even be power-washed. From mass meals to coordinated nap time, the canine care in his household has benefited from years of experience.

PHOTO: Waffles, one of the performers in J.R. Johns Dog Gone Silly show.
Jason Kurtis/ABC News
Waffles, one of the performers in J.R. Johns' Dog Gone Silly show.

Johns's appreciation for a dog's capacity has grown over generations. It's proven to him that all dogs have great potential within.

"Adopt, don't shop. There's no reason to. All these guys are great examples. They all come from troubled backgrounds," Johns said. "But they're all capable of amazing things. It's just the amount of time you put into the dog that make them great, not how much dough you pay for them."

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